Genine Lentine

Upon Your “[Un]consolable Sadness”

“No creature ever comes short of its own completeness”
un-? or is it in-?
let it be un
because it is animal
living outside the tent, stalking
un– or in
is it (you) or (I)?
un– because it is also just a cloud, and you know it
which is the fear? the un
or the sadness itself?
Sadness, that won’t kill you
but the un-,
to skid into that un
and believe it, call that
crawlspace “the world”
maybe that’s the only fear worth entertaining:
convinced to venture no further contact
I want to split it apart
un-un it of itself
two letters,
mirrored inversions
You say that word
and unspring the consoler
Upon this un
I lay this quick reflex
(foolish, habitual)
Upon this un
I lay this wish
for your head in my lap
consoling in degrees
, at least,
with small amusements,
what I can muster
to make a case for the world—
some facts about mammals:
this one lets half its brain sleep at a time
this one makes two kinds of milk,
one for the just born
one for the still suckling, or
who even needs so many cells?
Listen to this description of a protist,
and then try to say unconsolable:
some possess a thrashing tail
or fine rhythmically beating hairs,
while others contain packets of chlorophyll…

I could go on,
or let’s add a few more cells
and we have the volvox:
…a hollow sphere, where the wall
is made up of cells,
each with a rhythmically beating hair
appearing like a tail.
The movement of the hairs
is coordinated to move
the entire sphere in one direction.

Doesn’t even that single beating hair
kind of cheer you up?
Ruiyan asked Yantou,
“What is the fundamental constant principle?”
Yantou said, “Moving.”
Or something planetary in scope:
kneel here on this test-site soil
and here and here
wildfire and nuclear war, whatever sludge
you can point your tired finger to
move your finger away to find
Ask it: it’s not so bad is it? Being alive?
Did you know…?
Have you seen…?
Or little word jokes
Milena: How do you spell D?
until your smile taps
with its prospecting hammer
the un’s rockface
moraine rent with a small white flower
slip my hand under the un-,
find where the un– gives
How about some formal puzzles
like on the NSA diagnostic test:
The top row of boxes follows a sequence.
Which box comes next?

—consoling by giving your genius
something to do
Among the rarely bored
boredom can be mistaken for sadness
Yes, I know: Picture this object
rotated 45 degrees
what color is the side closest to you?

but the object is missing
It is, sometimes
but what about when it’s there?
What happens
if you let it be there?
be subject?
Or, or,
We could try some
yogic breathing
that should do it
[V, at breakfast: “I just wanted to get you breathing again”]
Again, I see myself
wanting to make you see
You or I?
Until you pull the un– over your head
like an old sweater
or take the un into you
as the nudibranch swallows poison
and turns it into color,
take your entire height
into the un
let the letters roll off you
until you can breathe again
let the un
stormsurge your slopes
let it uproot burned manzanita
let it all crash the guide walls
Who is being consoled?
And now?
Now what’s happening?
And now, consolation sloshing
back onto the consoler
And now, hydrophobic soil
forkscored to receive some of it
There is nothing that can’t be consoled
even if the last consolation registered is death
which asks nothing of us, only that we’re here for it
not this shed, burned to the ground
not this melted lawn chair
its webbing one solid mass
in-? let it be un
I want some animal left in you
[like when you said, simply,
about my complaint of quaking:
well, it’s primal, the fear of death]
The person who,
when asked to name a fear,
holds out this:
actually I don’t have any—
lodging the sofa in front of the door—
I would never entrust
a burning building–my body–
to such a person
but when you said un
unfurling each finger
as in Ramachandran’s mirror box
opening to flat relief the “good hand”
my clenched phantom fist
could not help but open too
when the good arm
is doubled and lets the brain see
what relief would look like.
On a rainy morning, walking east
on Bleecker, I held out my arm
for a cab downtown to see Mark,
disappointed at everyone dying—
convinced of that—
but what about this rain? how it sheets
down that window, suggesting to the glass
a way to yield without shattering,
how a small surf crests on it (!)
And what am I to make of this cab driver
his sudden kindness, his swiftness
pulling over to me. Come in out of that rain.
All that only made matters worse
because I couldn’t make sense
of my “forsakenness,”
and the relentless kindness
how I felt one room over from it all
could hear it through the wall
but not be part of it.
And I sat in Mark’s office
and even before his—
how do you say?—
I could still say, I feel inconsolable.
Inconsolable? You do?
Even to hear him repeat the word
consoled me. And I couldn’t
offer you even this.
When you said un
I stood there silently
though everything in me felt called
toward this consolation
leaning into it
neither could I just receive it
without wanting to swoop onto it
as how whenever I see you I can’t speak
and so I speak too much
or I want to strike the bell
with too much force
and so, barely touch it

Genine Lentine
“Upon Your ‘[Un]consolable Sadness'” is from Mr. Worthington’s Beautiful Experiments on Splashes (New Michigan Press, 2010).
Author’s Notes:
Dogen Zenji, Shobogenzo, Genjokoan
Book of Serenity, tr. Thomas Cleary. Case #75, “Ruiyan’s Constant Principle” Lindisfarne Press, 1990. p.316
Andrew Parker, In the Blink of an Eye. p. 15-16
V.S. Ramachandran, A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness. New York: Pi Press. p. 15.